Putin-Backed Chechen Leader Says Russia to Counter Syrian Threat

Russia is forming a special unit in the North Caucasus to counter threats from Syrian militants and is ready for preventive strikes in the Middle Eastern country, said the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“There are thousands of Syrian fighters who represent a threat to our country, according to Russian intelligence,” Kadyrov said in a statement published on the Chechen government’s website late yesterday. If ordered by President Vladimir Putin, agents are ready to “neutralize” Syrian militants in their “den,” Kadyrov said.

Russian federal forces fought two wars against separatist insurgents in Chechnya. Kadyrov, 37, a former rebel fighter who switched sides in 1999, said a unit of military instructors and 5,000 to 7,000 soldiers are being trained in Chechen forests to counter the threats emanating from Syria.

Russian officials have said that hundreds of Russian nationals, mainly from the North Caucasus, are fighting in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad and their return from the war-torn country may pose a threat to the Winter Olympics in Sochi next February.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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